Matt Wrack, London Region FBU, told Solidarity about the importance of the National Officer elections
The National Officer election ballot is extremely important. It is an opportunity for ordinary members to influence the direction the union is going to take in the coming period.
There are some activists who argue that elections are of secondary importance to winning votes for "action". However, I think that the recent dispute has clearly demonstrated that we need to address all aspects of how the union is run. That means fighting for democratic control over officials and for democratic reform within the union as a whole. It also means taking an active role in the electoral process. I think in this election and for some time to come the membership will be taking an increased interest in union elections. It is an opportunity to hold officials to account and make a judgement on their role.
The National Officer election will be done by a workplace ballot.
Normally the only postal ballots in the FBU are those required under law - for industrial action and for the election of certain officials. The National Officers are not voting members members of the Executive. It is therefore a workplace ballot. This does create some problems. The distribution of ballot papers is a very drawn out process, for example. I am aware that in a number of areas ballot papers are still not out despite the fact that the balloting process is already under way. The union should look at more efficient and therefore democratic ways of distributing the ballot papers.
As we are prevented by FBU rules against canvassing from suggesting who FBU members might want to vote for, we can only reproduce excerpts from the three candidates' election statements, and encourage you to work it out for yourselves...
"Our pay campaign showed the union totally united, absolutely determined, flexible when necessary. I was proud to put my 32 years experience at the service of such a magnificent campaign.
"Those who speak with hindsight... are instinctive wreckers with a political agenda of their own.
"The FBU executive has always worked together accepting majority views after full membership consultation and then campaigning in unity for them. That's democracy."
"The employers made no headway until the present leadership decided to betray the £30k pay campaign. They called off strike after strike, demoralised the membership and grovelled to the Government.
"The result of their surrender is a pay rise that would have been laughed at this time last year. Now nothing is safe (not even our pensions) as the politicians and Chief Fire Officers put the boot in.
"The FBU needs a new leadership to stop this rot."
"The outcome of the pay campaign was bitterly disappointing. FBU members delivered an unparalleled mandate in favour of industrial action to achieve fair pay.
"We kept our side of the deal. The Executive Council, however, did not.
"Our campaign failed because the EC's resolve failed. The membership deserved better.
"The dispute also exposed a serious lack of accountability at the top of our union... Such secrecy is entirely unacceptable. I will demand: more democracy, more accountability, more transparency.
"We, the membership, must reclaim our union."